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What is an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders can be characterized by persistent or constant changes in eating behaviors that are typically related to weight gain or restricting eating. Eating disorders can be extremely serious conditions that affect eating behaviors in a psychological, social, and physical function. People suffering from eating disorders usually have a distorted body dysmorphia and may have an intense fear of gaining weight. These serious mental health disorders and behaviors result in developing an abnormal relationship with food.
The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Other, lesser-known eating disorders are pica, rumination disorder and ARFID. OSFED, or Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders, is a classification for those who do not meet diagnostic criteria for any other eating disorder. Someone who has an eating disorder may experience medical complications, as some eating disorders can be life-threatening. It is important to reach out to a mental health professional who can provide medical advice if you believe that you or someone you know has an eating disorder.
Types of Eating Disorders
The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder and other disorders causing low self- esteem, distorted body shape or a weight distorted body image.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is another eating disorder with eating habits that can be described as a lack of control when eating or someone who eats large amounts of food at one time. This person may eat more food than intended, eats fast during binge episodes, eats quickly, or has a large food intake despite being excessively full. After a binge eating session, you may feel ashamed, guilty, or disgusted by your behavior and the amount of food after eating, frequently dieting without weight loss.
Bulimia nervosa and binge eating are quite different in that a binge eating disorder does not involve any purging episodes or excessive exercise to compensate for the excess food that someone has eaten. Although they are different, both eating disorders may pose serious health consequences
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling hungry
- Eating more rapidly than normal
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty afterward
- Eating until uncomfortably full
- Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
Anorexia nervosa is a common eating disorder that causes a person to focus heavily on their weight, body mass index, and body shape. A person with anorexia nervosa constantly thinks about how to lose weight, obsesses about weight loss, engages in excessive exercise, and may experience purging behaviors to avoid the chance that they will gain weight. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa may result in significant weight loss or excessive exercise.
Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
- Extremely restricted eating patterns or extreme healthy eating
- Focusing relentlessly on being thin
- Misrepresented body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by a perception of body shape and weight, or a denial of serious low body weight
- Extreme thinness (emaciation)
- Exercising excessively
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Unwilling to maintain a normal or healthy weight
People with bulimia nervosa, have experiences of bingeing and purging behaviors that are a result of a lack of control over their eating habits. Binges occur at least weekly and are typically followed by what are called “compensatory behaviors” to prevent weight gain. These can include laxative misuse, vomiting, fasting, or exercising excessively.
Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa
- Frequent trips to the bathroom right after eating large amounts of food
- Large amounts of food disappearing or unexplained empty wrappers and food containers
- Chronic sore throat
- Swelling of the salivary glands in the cheeks
- Dental decay resulting from erosion of tooth enamel by stomach acid
- Heartburn and acid reflux
- Diet pill misuse or the use of laxatives to achieve weight loss
- Recurrent unexplained diarrhea
- Misuse of diuretics (water pills)
- Fainting or feeling dizzy or from excessive purging behaviors that result in dehydration
Rumination disorder involves repetitive regurgitation or re-chewing your food after you eat whereby swallowed food is brought back up into the mouth voluntarily and is re-chewed and re-swallowed or spit out.
Symptoms of Rumination Disorder
- Regurgitation not due to a gastrointestinal or medical problem
- Occurs repeatedly over at least a 1-month period
- Rumination can also occur in other mental health concerns; however, the degree must be severe enough to warrant separate clinical attention for the diagnosis to be made.
- Does not occur as part of one of the other behavioral eating disorders listed above
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is newly diagnosed according to the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM-5) and was previously called “Selective Eating Disorder.” ARFID is like anorexia nervosa because both disorders involve limiting the types and/or amount of food consumed, but unlike anorexia, someone with ARFID does not have a fear of gaining too much wait or concerns about body size or shape.
This disorder is characterized by having a lack of interest in eating, and specifically failing to meet your minimum daily nutrition requirements. The person may avoid foods with certain sensory characteristics, such as texture, smell, color, or taste. People with an autism spectrum disorder are at a much higher risk for developing ARFID, as are those with ADHD and intellectual disabilities.
It is important to note that AFRID is very commonly misdiagnosed, and it is an extremely rare condition. Most common eating disorders can be classified as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or rumination disorder.
Other Specified Eating Disorders
Other specified eating disorders may include:
- Atypical anorexia nervosa – people who are suffering from atypical anorexia nervosa, someone who has met all the criteria for anorexia except being underweight without any substantial weight loss;
- Atypical bulimia nervosa, someone who meets all criteria for bulimia except those bulimic behaviors have not been ongoing for long enough or are less frequent.
- Night eating syndrome (NES) simply stated occurs when someone overeats at night and then has a problem with sleep. Many times, a person with NES will wake up at night and eat. This becomes a compulsive behavior.
Who is at Risk for Eating Disorders?
There are some common risk factors for someone developing eating disorders. Taken together, eating disorders affect up to 5% of the population, most often develop in early childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, specifically in young women. Eating disorders can affect people of all body weights, genders, ages, and racial/ethnic backgrounds. Eating disorders often occur in combination with other mental health disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders or other mental disorders that affect a person’s mental health.
What is a Normal Weight and Healthy Body Image?
It is crucial for individuals to have a healthy body image to avoid health conditions like eating disorders. People really struggle with wanting to have a “normal weight” but what does that really mean? This can be characterized by many factors including a person’s overall health, body mass index, and feeling comfortable in our own body. This includes what you think and feel about your appearance and how you judge your own self-worth.
Some tips for building a better body image:
A good place to start is to refocus your self-talk.
Feeling good at all sizes.
Shut down the comparison game.
Commit to doing things that make you feel good.
Record the positives.
Do not fear the mirror.
Create little reminders to do things that make you feel good.
Occupy your mind with activities, boredom can be a set up for self-loathing.
Are Eating Disorders Related to Mental Disorders?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, young people who are between ages 15 and 24 and have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa have 10 times the risk of dying compared to peers who are their same age.
People with eating disorders often have a mental health disorder or history of a mental disorder such as depression, an anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with eating disorders frequently are struggling with ways to cope with a mental illness and are using food behaviors to “fix” the problem.
Getting Treatment for an Eating Disorder
The most common eating disorder treatment involves some sort of cognitive behavioral therapy to determine the underlying reason behind the eating behavior. Often, an eating disorder stems from mental illnesses that manifest with an obsession with body image and eating habits. People with eating disorders are trying to find a way to have more control over their life, and this leads to a feeding disorder or other eating disorder.
People with eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide and medical complications, which is why it is important to get help right away. Reaching out to your doctor or a medical professional is the first step in determining the extent of the problem, and then treatment can develop.
Treatment at Turning Point of Tampa
Turning Point of Tampa has a holistic approach to the treatment of eating disorders. We believe that there are several important aspects of any individual that must be considered during treatment. At Turning Point, we treat individuals with eating disorders such as binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa.
The primary focus of treating eating disorders in our program is to offer nutritious, low sugar, high fiber, foods that also identify and eliminate each client’s individual food triggers and encourages eating. At Turning Point of Tampa, we provide a safe food environment where meals are planned, prepared by the client, and weighed and measured.
If you feel that you or someone you love may have an eating disorder, please consider our brief questionnaire or contact our team for more information on our eating disorder and food addiction programs.